Oh, the week that was. The Trump Government decided to down tools, death threats were sent to an MP who wanted to change the date, and one Wallaby decided to drive to work.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had every flyer’s worst nightmare, Trump facing a likely government shutdown, an escalation in the Australia Day debate and an Aussie postcard coming to life this week.
Passengers on a Malaysian Airlines flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur were advised to “brace for impact” with the plane being forced to make an emergency landing in Alice Springs after a harrowing mid air experience. Passenger Donna Edwards told media that “The flight attendant came on and said the pilot will give a 30-second warning before impact.”
Terrified passengers turned to the flight crew for answers but it appeared that they had no idea whether or not the plane was going to crash and what was going on. Sanjeev Pandey, another passenger, told of crew members and passengers preparing for the worst, with attendants reminding passengers of the brace position and how to use it.
Malaysia Airlines have released a statement indicating that the plane experienced a “technical fault” in an engine but that “Safety was not at any time compromised and the commanding captain decided to divert the flight for technical assistance.”
The airlines CEO, Izham Ismail, has apologised for the incident and indicated that Malaysia Airlines are “working very hard” to assist the passengers involved in reaching connecting flights in Kulala Lumpur after providing a new aircraft to transport them from Alice Springs.
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The Trump administration is facing the increased risk of a Government shutdown as a stopgap bill to permit funding to the US Government until February 16th appears to be on the verge of collapse.
President Trump met with Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer to work on a strategy to get the bill passed by the deadline this weekend. Trump described the meeting as “excellent” and suggested that great progress had been made to achieve the four-week extension required. Schumer, however, painted a different picture suggesting that a number of disagreements hadn’t been resolved yet and that discussions were ongoing.
The bill has passed the House of Representatives but the loggerhead appears to be in the Senate with the Republicans requiring at least ten Democrat votes to pass it due to both the absence of Republican Senator John McCain, who is undergoing cancer treatment, and indications from at least three Republican Senators that they would not vote to pass the bill.
The sticking point, as it usually is, has nothing to do with the bill itself. The Democrats are insisting that Trump reverse his decision to end a program which could see up to 700,000 young undocumented immigrants deported from the US. Known as “Dreamers”, these were people brought to the US as children, primarily from Mexico and Central America, and afforded temporary legal status under the previous administration. The Democrats appear to be refusing to sign the bill without protections being tacked on for the “Dreamers”.
Should a deal not be reached soon, the Government will face its first shutdown in more than four years. Whilst Trump and the Republicans would be hoping to blame the Democrats for holding the bill hostage and causing the problem, a Washington Post–ABC News poll on Friday found that 48% of Americans would blame Trump and the Republicans with only 28% indicating they would blame the Democrats.
Meanwhile, a poll was released this week showing that the Trump Administration has broken the record for the lowest global approval rating of a US administration. The previous record came in 2007 when this particular poll was first introduced and was held by George W Bush towards the end of his tenure amid the Global Financial Crisis.
Approximately $4,000 was allegedly stolen from a funeral in the Melbourne suburb of Avondale Heights this week in what has been described as a despicable act.
If the theft wasn’t bad enough, the intended purpose for the funds makes it all the more worse.
The funeral was being held for a 43-year-old man called Shane who was tragically taken following complications from a severe asthma attack.
Shane is survived by his four year old son, Kai, who has high range autism and requires specialised, and costly, care. The $4,000 represented donations from friends, family and colleagues to assist with Kai’s ongoing care.
Shane’s family have lamented having his funeral “tainted” by the “despicable act”. His sister-in-law, Kristy, pleaded for the offender to turn himself in, questioning how someone could “stoop so low”.
Senior Constable Joey Micallef, who is involved with the investigation, described the act as one of the worst crimes he has ever seen in his eight years as a police officer. “It’s a completely despicable, spineless act…I can’t seem to get my head around it…It’s absolutely imperative this person is held accountable for his actions.”
Police also believe the offender has been stalking funeral homes and had previously stolen money from a church donation box during a funeral in Bundoora on November 15th last year, with First Constable Belinda Petrovska saying “There have been reports of a man fitting this description attending other funerals doing the same thing. It’s disgusting this man is targeting grieving people at their most vulnerable.”
It does appear that police may have their man with a 57-year-old Werribee man being charged with two counts of theft and one count of burglary. It’s understood that the alleged offender turned himself in to Werribee police station on Friday night.
Also on The Big Smoke
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Greens MP Lidia Thorpe, Victoria’s first female Aboriginal MP, has told the media that she has been receiving threats of death and rape from the general public in response to her contribution to the debate of Australia Day.
Thorpe earlier in the week had called for flags to be flown at half mast on January 26th to recognise the crimes committed against the Aboriginal people.
Since making the suggestion, she has been inundated with threatening emails and notes including one that was slipped under the door of her electoral office. According to Ms Thorpe, “These are about rape, and these are quite graphic and detailed threats for me…I’m a mum, I’ve had to ensure my children are safe. My staff have been affected, my family’s been affected. It’s just unacceptable behaviour.”
Thorpe has refused, however, to let the threats silence her, saying, “I am not going to stand for this kind of behaviour and I’m not going to back down from the message that I’m trying to send out there to the people of this country. We need to deal with the true history of this country. This is not going to be tolerated and it’s not going to silence me. It’s going to make me more determined to put the message out there and to stand up as an Aboriginal woman.”
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion, has weighed into the discussion indicating that not a single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person has approached him about changing the date.
His comments came following an interview on ABC’s 7:30 with Chris Sarra, one of the PM’s Indigenous affairs advisers, who indicated that holding Australia Day on January 26th was dividing Australians and excluding Indigenous people.
Senator Scullion told the media that Dr Sarra was the first Indigenous Australian to have made the suggestion to him. No indication on whether Senator Scullion has considered asking Indigenous Australians rather than waiting for them to tell him. I think they used to call that “consulting the constituency.”
Rod Little, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, acknowledged that it is possible that Scullion hadn’t heard from the community because he had been focused on Indigenous health and education before pointing out his surprise, saying, “If the Minister is the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, he absolutely should be informing himself.”
Scullion’s colleague, Federal Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt, who is a Yamatji-Wongi-Noongar man, also voiced his surprise, saying, “Some of the [Indigenous] leadership have been very vocal. Certainly I’ve had individuals who have that view talk to me. I’ve had them text me, even as late as yesterday. And I know my other Indigenous colleagues have been part of those discussions as well.”
Might be time to hit the streets and ask a few questions, Mr Scullion.
Wacky and Wonderful
From the “Only in Australia” file, this week we saw a wayward wallaby hopping across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. NSW Police were dispatched to help him find his way after reports from the public at around 5am.
The male swamp wallaby was first spotted at the northern end before crossing the road and heading towards the city.
Officers eventually apprehended the slippery customer and took him to Taronga Zoo for a complete checkup. Thankfully he only had a few minor injuries which are being treated by the zoo before they release him back into the wild.
But it gets more Australian than that.
As police tried to catch the marsupial, a motorist driving through the area jumped out to assist. The motorist was none other than former Wallabies captain, Nick Farr-Jones.
Apparently it takes a Wallaby to catch a Wallaby… I’ll be here all week folks.
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In the interests of balance, here’s a quick one to finish from the “Only in America” file.
A state district judge in Comal County, Texas, interrupted the jury of a case he was presiding over to sway jurors towards a not-guilty vote. He was spurred to intervene after being told by God that the defendant was not guilty.
It’s worth mentioning here that this wasn’t over a parking ticket; the charges related to the trafficking, sale and purchase of a child.
Judge Jack Robison defended his actions, telling the jury, “When God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it.”
I’d be surprised but…well…
Have a great week, TBSers!